Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Gown: Week One

I should just put "questioning my sanity" for every week of this project. Not only that, I've got a back-up plan for a dress because I do not want to take shortcuts and skimp on this dress.  It shall be THE couture gown in my closet. Taking a very old mentality on clothing, it should be something that lasts the test of time, to be lovingly cared for and not tossed to the floor like some cheap polyester princess.

Having said all that, I am going to add that this is a very intimidating project.  The number of new skills include major pattern alteration/drafting, hand basting fashion and underlining, soft pleats, six gored skirt, godets, and a hidden placket  in the side seam for snaps.  Because I'm making this out of such a lightweight silk I'm using acrylic snaps instead of a zipper.  It really took some mental mustering to even get out my resources.  I brought out my "Fitting and Pattern Alterations" text book, the "Couture Sewing Techniques" from Shaeffer, and of course the Susan Kalje online couture class.

I'm using Simplicity 1801 by Cynthia Rowley for the bodice portion, and Colette's Oolong for the skirt portion, and the article in Threads #155 by Susan Kalje in how to add vintage details (like godets) into a garment (not pictured).

So far I have managed to separate the pattern pieces and make seam lines.  I also made the full bust and rounded shoulder adjustments, as well as change the grain line on the Oolong skirt pieces from bias to straight of grain. There is something in the way of 12 pattern pieces once I include the eventually self-drafted sleeves, godets (six, one in each seam of the skirt), and facing pieces.

re-drafting the grain lines. 
 In the process of ironing and pinning the muslin I realized that I need another bolt of the stuff.  Luckily there's a nice sale going on this weekend at JoAnn's.  I also need to get some drafting supplies for my class, which doesn't help on the stress part but I'm still psyched about. Oh yeah, and the kids are going back to school and they are asking me about making them clothes. Which I guess is kinda cool, but uh.. not now.  (Costume October is coming up, yo. I just made that up, I might make it a yearly event).

laying out the pieces
 This photo should be self explanatory to my sewing readers, but a lot of my non-sewing friends read this I'll go into more detail.  This is what is called the couture muslin.  In most home sewing you mark the cutting line then stitch in from there a set distance. This is not very accurate, so with this level of sewing you mark the stitching line, in this case I'm using a very large sheet of wax paper and a pattern marking wheel.

pattern marking wheel

What this does is transfer the marks to the back side of the pattern.  I then will take the paper patterns off, re-pin inside the stitching line and then trace over the marks on the other side so I have mirror images.  This gives me a full piece for those things on the fold, two for those not.  One must remember we are taking flat cloth and engineering it to something that fits to an often non symmetrical body.

the other side
I will then cut this out with VERY large seam allowances and machine baste (sewing with wide stitches that are easy to take out), or pin, then do a first fitting of the bodice. The second muslin fitting will include the skirt portions.

My intention here is to also log the number of hours spent on this project and do a running tally of what it would cost if I were charging someone by the hour to make something at standard market wage for a couture level seamstress(albeit, beginner). $30hr

Materials: Six yards of coral silk crepe de chine(inherited), 5 yards of crepe de chine for lining (35),  1 yard of antique lace($15), 1 yard of 45" wide lace ($15) =$65
Hours put into this so far, not including blogging and daydreaming:   4 hrs = $120


  1. I can't wait to see the end result, and the process too.

  2. I'm glad someone else is doing the couture thing for 'prom'!! I decided to tackle the Bombshell for it & am so pleased at the level of quality I'm achieving and the skills I'm learning - as you said, a garment to love and wear for a long time :)

    I love how you're logging your time; I wish I'd done that - I bet it's at least 100 hrs so far!